Madison Westin 02-Deception in Paradise, page 1part #2 of Madison Westin Series
Raves for Deborah Brown
“I was just as engaged with Deborah’s books as I was with Sue Grafton, James Patterson, and Robert Parker. I couldn’t put it down. Whip fast.”
— Norman Tucker, Mesa, AZ
“Laugh out Loud. If you’re looking for a book with quirky humor, her books are it and full of adventure too.”
— Jean Howard, Burbank, CA
“Full of delightfully oddball characters honed from a very fertile imagination.”
— Gracie Sam, Seattle, WA
“Deborah’s triumph!! Quite the characters and intrigue. A real page turner.”
— Vera Pena, Durango, CO
“Fast read, good writing, and lots of laughs.”
—Dee Burke, Land O Lakes, FL
DEBORAH BROWN’S CRAZY IN PARADISE
“Welcome to Florida – where a girl’s best friend is her Glock. This book’s like cotton candy – a sweet airy confection that’s a little taboo, but you’ve got to have it anyways. It’s chick lit in the best sense, a story that know sometimes a girl just needs a bubble bath, a glass of wine, and a bad boy. This is the kind of book that’s a welcome reward after a hard day in stiletto heels.”
“Get ready to go on vacation. This was a great story to lose yourself in. I enjoyed every part of it!”
“Crazy read lots of zany characters. From the first page of the book to the last, the action was non-stop. Crazy in Paradise is just that, crazy and a fun read.”
“I found the storyline to be fast paced, full of action, and well thought out. I enjoyed this book for its quirky plot and the level of action. Satisfy your chick-lit cravings.”
“There’s a lot packed into this little book.”
MADISON WESTIN NOVELS
Crazy in Paradise
Deception in Paradise
A Madison Westin Novel
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof, in any form. No part of this text may be reproduced, transmitted, downloaded, decompiled, reverse engineered, or stored in or introduced into any information storage and retrieval system, in any form or by any means, whether electronic or mechanical without the express written permission of the author. The scanning, uploading and distribution of this book via the Internet or via any other means without the permission of the publisher is illegal and punishable by law. Please purchase only authorized electronic editions and do not participate in or encourage electronic piracy of copyrighted, materials.
Excerpt from Crazy in Paradise @2011 by Deborah Brown
DECEPTION IN PARADISE
COPYRIGHT © 2012 Deborah Brown.
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Thank you to the fabulous
Sharman Wicker Schubert
Thank you to my Editor, Dale Cassidy
With my heart in my throat, I pulled to the side of the road, threw open my car door, and reached for my cell phone to call 911. Moments before, a beat-up red Pinto had raced around my Tahoe on the passenger side, almost clipping my front bumper. The car sped into the intersection, weaving and skidding out of control, and smashed into a light pole, where the front end folded like an accordion. The Pinto ricocheted back into the intersection. One of the tires had flipped into the air, landing on the windshield, of the pinto shattering the glass.
Sitting with cell phone in hand, I breathed a sigh of relief when the door of the Pinto opened; the crazy driver must be okay since he was climbing out. I watched with open-mouthed, wide-eyed shock as Joseph got out of the car, clearly drunk. He weaved back and forth, hunched over, threw up several times, stood up, looked around, and stumbled off. I wondered whose car he’d been driving. His last two or three cars had been impounded, and the court had revoked his driver’s license months ago.
Looking around, I realized I was the only eyewitness. The traffic light and the cars driving by barely looked at the car abandoned in the middle of the street. I ran across the road, looked in the wreckage for other passengers, and breathed a sigh of relief that it was empty. I took a deep breath. No one was paying any attention, as I walked back to my SUV. The police could investigate without my help. If asked, I wouldn’t lie for Joseph. I’d learned a long time ago that lying to cops was a good way to end up in jail.
When I first arrived in Tarpon Cove, I didn’t know my way around. It didn’t take long for me to become the go-to girl for free rides to those with no transportation. In addition to the jail, I’d made several trips to the probation office and managed to get a couple of people to their court hearings on time. Most of them were my tenants. The irony here is that Joseph would call me for a ride home from the jail. My biggest problem was saying no.
* * *
Fall in south Florida is one of the reasons a person lives here year-round. The weather’s perfect, warm days with baby blue skies, white fluffy clouds, and cool evenings. An added benefit for me, my shoulder-length red hair isn’t the curly, frizzy mess it usually is. In fact, in the fall, it is almost straight, unlike the humid days of summer.
I loved driving through the streets of The Cove, windows down, fresh air in my face. Weekends were a good excuse to take the long way and drive along the Gulf with its white beaches and clear blue water. The Overseas Highway was always stacked going north, with tourists driving back from Key West to Miami and beyond.
I turned the corner onto Cove Road and was surprised to see my gate standing open. A sleek, black two-seater Thunderbird roadster sat in my driveway. Fab had once again traded for a new sports car. She changed cars like she changed shoes. I parked next to her and pulled my workout bag out of the backseat. As I walked up to the front door, I saw her through the kitchen window, feeding my cat Jazz on the counter.
“Madison, let me explain,” Fab said.
I threw my bag on the floor. “What have you done now?”
Fab had become my first friend in The Cove. Jake at the local bar described her as his favorite kind of trouble. Sexy and hard-bodied, she was the kind of woman every man wanted until they discovered that she packed a gun in the front of her bra.
“I took on a small side job,” Fab said. “I need your help.”
“My help?” Afraid to ask, I put my purse and keys on a bench in the entry and pointed to the man in my living room. “Who’s he?”
The stranger sat tied to one of my chairs, a piece of tape across his mouth.
“Calm down. Now, about your help.”
I walked into the kitchen. “I’m not helping you with kidnapping. Why can’t you ask for favors that are legal?”
“I didn’t kidnap him.” Fab’s blue eyes
“I thought you handcuffed people.”
“He is handcuffed. He jerked around on the chair so much, I thought he’d tip it over and break something. The tape was necessary. He wouldn’t stop whining, and I couldn’t take it anymore. It was either that or kill him.”
“Okay, Fab, I get the part about you doing investigation work for Brick. Why’s this man in my house?”
“It’s shift change at the sheriff’s station. I have another pickup to do. If I take him in now, I’ll have to sit there for at least an hour. I thought I’d leave him here, come back and get him, and turn him in before the next shift change.”
“What was he arrested for?”
“Dickie was arrested on a sex charge.”
“Dickie?” I turned and looked at the man again. “Fab,” I said in a loud whisper. “That’s Dickie Vanderbilt. He owns Tropical Slumber Funeral Home.” Dickie was nice enough, but he had the creepy factor going for him. Maybe because I knew he hung out with dead people all day. “Sex charge? As in sex offender? I don’t believe that.”
“That’s what he was whining about, saying it was all a misunderstanding. They all say the same thing. He should’ve shown up in court and told his story to the judge. Plus, you don’t use Brick for bail money and then skip.”
“Where was he when you found him?”
“Slumped over his desk, drunk, at the funeral home.”
“Doesn’t seem like he skipped anywhere to me. I’m taking off the tape.” I walked over to Dickie and started to pull the tape off slowly, while he squirmed around like a two-year-old.
Fab came up behind me. “Stop.” She stepped in front of me and ripped the tape off his mouth.
“I know it hurt, but faster is better. Now you two can sit here and talk all you want.” Fab grabbed her keys off the counter. “You going to be okay with me leaving him here for a couple of hours?”
The space between my eyes started throbbing, announcing a whale of a headache. “Dickie, I don’t know if you remember me, but I’m Madison Westin. We had the funeral for my Aunt Elizabeth at your place.”
“Yes, I remember.” He sniffed. “The best turnout I ever had.”
“Gee, sorry I missed that.” Fab rolled her eyes. “So, he can stay?”
“Dickie, can you behave yourself?”
“Yes,” he said, tears in his eyes.
“He can stay,” I told Fab. “Untie him. Cuff one of his arms to the chair if you have to.”
“What if he tries to get away?”
“Then I’ll shoot him.”
I’d never seen such a big smile on Fab’s face. In addition to her hotness, I had no doubt she was crazy.
“I have a Glock in the car,” Fab offered.
“Thanks, but I have my own Glock.” My brother Brad had given me another gun when I told him I passed an advanced gun safety course. He increased my arsenal to three guns. I was now the proud owner of a Beretta and two Glocks.
“Don’t worry; he’ll be here when you get back.” I turned to Dickie. “Promise me you’re not going anywhere.”
“I promise. You won’t have to shoot me,” Dickie said.
“So what’s your plan?” I asked Fab.
“I’ll be back in a couple of hours to take him off your hands. I want to beat the night shift rush, when they bring in the street girls and dime dealers.”
“Can I ask where you’re going?”
“No.” She hesitated, her eyes fixed on me. “I’ve got another job from Brick.” Brick Famosa owned several high-end car rental businesses in South Florida. In addition, he’d just opened a bail bond business not far from the courthouse. He’d gotten his start with a hole-in-the-wall pawnshop that he turned into a string of locations throughout Florida. If it had to do with cash, high interest rates, and the possibility of getting your ass kicked if you screwed him, then he owned it.
She shook her head. “Something different.”
“Good thing. Your latest ride only holds one other person, in case you forgot.”
“I get my cars from Brick, so when he calls, I have to respond. Besides, the jobs are easy, and it’s all about the perks.” As a private investigator with dubious clients, Fab rarely separated the line between legal and illegal; in fact, she pushed the line wherever it served her purpose.
I walked Fab to the front door. When I opened it and saw my mother standing there, the blood must have drained from my face. “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Really, Madison, you don’t look happy to see me. Do you want me to leave?”
“Fab has something to tell you,” I blurted.
“Hi, Fab honey. How are you?” Mother asked.
“I’m good. Love your shoes.” She pointed to Mother’s bright red peep-toe pumps. “I’ll let Madison explain. I’m late for a job.” She pushed past us and ran out the door.
“Fabiana Merceau!” I yelled. “Get back here!”
Fab waved as she got in her car and peeled out of the driveway.
“Where’s the fire?” Mother asked.
Mother looked good for her sixty years. She wore her short blond hair in a way that framed her face, and could pull the perfect outfit out of her closet in a minute. Mother was trim and tan, dressed in white capri pants and a red sweater set. She looked younger than all her friends. I tried clothes on and changed them until I had a pile on my bed before making a decision.
“I need to explain.”
“Really, Madison. Do you plan on making me stand outside?”
“Come in. I’m happy to see you.” I hugged her. “You look great.”
Mother walked into the kitchen and pulled a bottle of water from the refrigerator. “I know that look. You’ve done something and you don’t want me to find out. I thought we weren’t keeping secrets.”
“Just remember, this isn’t my fault.” Whininess must’ve been contagious because I sounded like Dickie.
Mother walked into the living room. “Hello, Mr. Vanderbilt.” She looked at me. “Did someone pass away?”
“Call me Dickie, Mrs. Westin. I prefer Richard, but no one seems to be able to remember.”
Mother pointed at Dickie and then glared at me. “Why is he handcuffed to your chair?”
“I’m going to let Dickie tell you.”
“I want to hear it from you,” she demanded. “Uncuff him. You can’t do this.”
“I didn’t. Fab did. I walked in from my self-defense class, and he was taped and tied up.”
I told Mother everything Fab had told me… well, almost everything. I hit the highlights, making it sound like the complete story.
“What was he arrested for?”
I pointed to Dickie. “You tell her.”
“Sex in public,” he whispered. Fear written all over his face; the little color he had turned his skin the same color as non-fat milk.
Mother made a snorting noise that I knew was choked-back laughter. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows.
“If convicted, he’ll have to register as a sex offender,” I said.
Dickie started to cry.
“You’re a respected businessman,” Mother scolded him. “Why would you do that?”
“You don’t understand.” He wiped his nose with his long skinny fingers, and then rubbed them on his shirt.
I tossed him the Kleenex box and made a mental note to disinfect anything he touched.
“Raul had broken up with me. I got drunk at Benzo’s party. You know Benzo. Someone gets arrested at every one of his parties, but I didn’t think it would be me. I was sitting out by his pool, feeling sorry for myself, and before I knew it, my pants were down around my ankles, and honestly, I didn’t know the neighbor was watching.” He s
I stared at my feet and bit my lip. I would not laugh. This was worse than anything my brother Brad or I ever confessed to.
“She called the police,” he continued. “I never thought I could get arrested for… well… honestly, I never thought about it.”
Mother was a champion in a crisis; she never blinked. “Do you have a lawyer?”
“You need a better lawyer,” I told him. I’d had unpleasant dealings with Tucker in the past and barely survived.
“He’s the only lawyer I know. Raul can’t find out about any of this, or there won’t be any chance that he’ll take me back.”
“Explain that you were drunk and distraught over the break-up,” Mother suggested.
“Would you accept that lame excuse, Mother?”
“Madison, you’re not helping.” She turned back to Dickie. “Do you mind me asking why you broke up?”
“I’m a sex addict. Raul thinks I haven’t taken therapy seriously, and that’s why I cheat.”
I stared at him. “A what?”
“Shh, Madison. It’s none of our business.”
Now she decides it’s none of our business. Did she forget she’s the one who asked the question?
“Last week, Raul forgot something at the office. When he walked in, he caught us drunk and bouncing on the desk.”
“That’s a relationship killer. Trust me. I know,” I said.
“Did Dickhead cheat on you?” Mother asked.
Dickhead was a nickname my family gave my ex-husband. Mother never knew half of the insanity of the train wreck that was my marriage. Since moving to Florida, I had moved on, and it felt great.
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